There are many familiar traditions associated with Christmas that we expect to experience as members of families, churches and communities each Advent season. We expect to see red and green decorations, Christmas trees, evergreen wreathes and Christmas lights and so forth. There are the foods that we look forward to enjoying – Christmas cookies and other baked goods, Christmas candy, delectable party foods, and then there’s Christmas dinner: a goose, or roast beef, a ham or maybe a turkey!
There are also the things we expect to hear – like the story of Mary and Joseph, classic Christmas carols, other popular Christmas music and the familiar clang of the Salvation Army bells, along with the sounds of many kinds of other bells. It is hard to imagine the Christmas season without hearing the sound of Christmas bells.
Christians the world over use bells to make Christmas music. In Victorian times, it was fashionable to go caroling with handbells. They were inexpensive, and most people had one or more, which made it possible for carolers to play the handbells while singing. They also were also able to play instrumental carols on their handbells. In Sweden, it was common for entire families to be handbell ringers.
Many of the most popular Christmas songs are about the ringing of Christmas bells – “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Silver Bells,” “Jingle Bells,” among many others.
Church bells have long held special significance for Christian cultures. In the Christian world, the ringing of church bells announces the occurrence of both joyful and sad events, such as a joyous wedding or a sad occasion like a funeral.
Church bells have been especially associated with the celebration of Christmas since the beginning of this popular Christian ritual. Surely, the resounding tones of the bells must have enhanced the Christmas experience and came to be a tradition that was used to proclaim the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas chimes also came to symbolize divine love and protection. Christians around the world, believe that the sound of the Christmas church bells bring the lost sheep back to the fold, as a testimony that all are precious in God’s sight.
In Old English the word “Christmas” is a contraction of the term Christ’s mass. Both the Anglican and Catholic churches follow the rule that the church day starts at sunset. Any service after sundown is considered the first service of the next day. So a service at midnight on Christmas Eve is traditionally considered the first service of Christmas Day.
In the Catholic Church, Christmas Eve is the only time that mass is allowed to be held at midnight. This is because in the early church it was believed that Jesus was born at midnight, and as a result, all kinds of churches have midnight services on Christmas Eve. In many Catholic countries such as France, Spain and Italy, the midnight mass is of utmost importance to the inhabitants, and they make special efforts to attend the service. The midnight Christmas church bells invite all to come.
In some churches in the United Kingdom, it is the tradition that the largest bell in the church is rung four times in the hour before midnight and then at midnight all the bells are rung in celebration. In Norway, the Christmas bells begin ringing at 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve; and in England, they begin to ring their bells at 11:00 p.m.
Bells are still an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. We use bells with bows to decorate our homes and Christmas trees. We hang jingle bells on our front doors. We finish our Christmas presents with little fancy bells. Our Christmas cards are adorned with bells.
Majestic church bells remain the most powerful of the bells. Christmas church bells deliver the emphatic message that “Jesus Christ is born!” Their peals resonate throughout our communities and garner our collective attention. Everyone hears the message of the nearby Christmas church bells.
Today, with Christianity and Christmas under unrelenting secularist assault, we need more than ever to hear the Christmas church bells. Those who are telling the world that American is no longer a Christian nation need to be contradicted by the Christmas church bells.
Those who are attempting to prevent our children in public schools from celebrating a traditional American Christmas need to be indicted by the Christmas church bells. Those people in television and in print media, who are attempting to foist a Christless December upon us by substituting Christmas with the word “holiday,” need to be forced to hear the Christmas church bells say, “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!”
I am calling for all who come in contact with this column to become a Christian Christmas activist and participate in a campaign to “Ring the Christmas Church Bells” across America this 2010 Advent Season.
I, the Christian Christmas Lady, am asking you to forward this article, or to make your own personal notice and send it to everyone in your e-address book and request that each person to whom you send the column do the same with their e-contacts.
You will be reaching pastors via their church members. Please request pastors of churches that have bells, to program their bells to play Christmas carol concerts each day of Advent. Also remind them to ring their church bells at 12:00 midnight on Christmas Eve and 12:00 noon on Christmas Day. Continue to forward this request right up until Christmas Eve. Take out ads in your local newspapers and inform your church members of the project by way of your church’s Sunday programs. Mention the project on call-in talk radio shows, and place notices to all churches on your local cable television’s community bulletin boards.
Our cooperative effort will produce wonderful sounds of Christmas across America this year.
May I be the first to wish you and your family a very “Merry Christmas!”